Moscow (AFP) – Russian aircraft that flew within metres of a US warship in international waters of the Baltic Sea was observing all required safety measures, the defence ministry said Thursday, expressing astonishment at the “sore reaction” from Washington.
Washington on Wednesday criticised the manoeuvre — which was dramatically caught on camera — with US military command slamming it as “unsafe and unprofessional.”
Su-24 planes were conducting test flights in the area and “having observed the ship, turned away in observance of all safety measures,” the defence ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov said in a statement posted on the ministry’s Facebook page.
“Frankly speaking, we don’t understand such a sore reaction from our US colleagues,” the statement added.
“With the US Navy destroyer in operational proximity of the Russian navy’s Baltic fleet base, the principle of its free sea navigation does not negate the principle of free air navigation of Russian planes,” it said.
The US military’s European command said one flyby — one of several — consisted of a “simulated attack profile” and came within 30 feet (nine metres) of the ship USS Donald Cook.
“These actions have the potential to unnecessarily escalate tensions between countries and could result in a miscalculation,” it said.
A senior US defence official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said: “This is more aggressive than anything we’ve seen in some time.”
Russia’s Baltic fleet, including the navy’s aircraft, this week is holding drills observed by the head of its Western military district commander, the military said Wednesday.
Ties between Russia and the West have plunged to their lowest point since the Cold War over Moscow’s annexation of the Crimean peninsula from Ukraine in 2014 and its support for separatist rebels in the east of the country.